Commercial cabbage farming is posting high returns among Chuka horticultural vegetable vendors due to demand for the nutritious commodity by consumers.
John Kinyua is making a fortune from selling cabbages at Chuka Open-air market after venturing into the business five years ago.
Kinyua buys the cabbages from South and Central Imenti, parts of Buuri in Meru County where the vegetable is grown as a cash crop and borders Tharaka Nithi County hence reducing transport costs.
He sells the cabbages within two to three days in the market before he goes for more supplies from Meru County. The vendor hires a lorry to transport the commodity which he says costs him about Sh5000 depending on the tonnage of the vehicle.
However, this has posed a challenge to the vendor as he has to pay cess fee to both Meru and Tharaka Nithi county governments hence incurring extra costs that make a dip in his profits.
Following the success of his business, Kinyua tells KNA that during the high peak seasons he hires two to three workers to assist him in selling the vegetable paying them a monthly wage of Sh7, 500.
“During the high season when the cabbages are selling fast, I employ several people to assist me and pay them, I like creating employment for young people but when the business is low, I can only manage to employ one person at a time,” he says.
One of the major boosts for his business include supplying cabbages to hotels in the county enabling him to make a profit of not less than Sh20, 000 per week.
“Depending on the amount of cabbages l buy, I manage to make very good profits especially during the high season such as the festive season. I can make between Sh20, 000 to Sh50, 000 profit per week,” Kinyua said.
He revealed that although the Covid-19 pandemic led to low sales after many people ventured into the business, he is however happy that the venture has managed to pick up two years later.
“The Covid-19 pandemic was such a big blow to many cabbage sellers because of the high levels of competition. Almost everybody became jobless and many people ventured into this business which really affected our sales,” he said
Currently, Kinyua buys his cabbages through a broker from the farmer who is later paid depending on the pieces of cabbages sold. He explains buying from a broker can be expensive as one has to factor in payments for both the broker and farmer.
He said that while buying through a broker, he makes a profit of Sh10 per cabbage head and if bought directly from the farmer he can manage to make a profit of Sh20 and above per cabbage.
Kinyua hopes to grow his own cabbages in the near future and sell them directly to the consumer to make more profits. “I am a farmer as well and hope to grow my own vegetables soon,” he said.
According to the trader, cabbage farming requires a cool, moist climate when the temperatures are very cool to thrive. In plain areas September and October is the ideal time for planting cabbages.
Planting of cabbages is done through preparing the seedlings in a seed bed then sowing, transplanting and spacing them 45cm apart in double rows after which the caring process is done which involves adding fertilizer, watering, mulching, controlling weeds to avoid loss of nutrients from the soil.
Kinyua says the time for harvesting depends on the market value and demand adding that sorting and grading is done before the cabbages are transported to the market.
“Cabbage is a very delicate vegetable and needs a lot of attention and can easily rot depending on the climate. When it is too sunny for a prolonged time, getting cabbage becomes hard because there is no supply of water for their growth, however the business is very promising,” Kinyua states.
He advises anyone that wants to venture into the business to take the risk adding that cabbage selling and farming is tough but very lucrative.
By Beatrice Mwende and Sharon Gitau